Wesley College mourns loss of Drass: Longtime football coach, athletic director dies at 57

Mike Drass, shown coaching the Wesley College football team during a game last November, took the Wolverines from a small-college afterthought to a program that reached the NCAA Division III semifinals six times between 2006-14. (Wesley College photo)

DOVER — The closeknit Wesley College football community was stunned by the news on Monday morning that the man who brought it together in the first place, coach Mike Drass, had died suddenly.

The 57-year-old Drass, who was also Wesley’s athletic director, died of unknown causes at his Dover home.

In 25 seasons as head coach, Drass took the Wolverines from a small-college afterthought to a program that reached the NCAA Division III semifinals six times between 2006-14. With a record of 229-69-1 under Drass, Wesley has made the Division III playoffs 13 seasons in a row.

“The Wesley College family’s heart is broken, and we are devastated by the loss of our long-time Athletic Director, Head Football Coach, educator and friend,” Wesley President Robert E. Clark II said in a statement. “No words can adequately describe how our Wesley College family feels, but our thoughts, prayers and our love are with Laurie, Molly and the entire Drass family.”

The charismatic Drass’ impact on his players went far beyond the field, though. He kept in close touch with many of his former players and coaches, delighting in their achievements long after they left Dover.

Drass, who played offensive line at Mansfield State, Pa., was especially thrilled that former Wolverines Joe Callahan and Matt Gono are on NFL rosters.

A number of Drass’ former players came back to work as volunteer assistant coaches after they graduated. The playing field at Wesley’s Miller Stadium was named ‘Drass Field’ in 2015.

“As I look at this program, I see everyone who’s ever played for us, everyone who’s ever coached for us,” Drass said at the time. “Everyone’s worked hard to make this happen. … I appreciate what an honor it is. But it’s certainly not something that is needed.”

Drass attended Wesley’s graduation on Saturday.

Word of Drass’ passing spread quickly both around town and around the country. Drass, who served on the American Football Coaches Association Rules Committee, was well-liked in the college coaching community.

At Dover High, former Drass players Demetrius Stevenson, Shawn Plews and Jason Bowen gathered in stunned disbelief.

“Everybody’s really shocked,” said Bowen. “It doesn’t seem fair. A guy who helped so many people, to go this soon, is just tough to take.”

Bowen also coached with Drass and has been a color analyst on Wesley radio broadcasts for the past 15 seasons. Bowen first played for Drass at North Penn, Pa. High when Drass was just a 22-year-old first-year assistant coach.

Bowen has known Drass for 35 years.

“He was a leader,” said Bowen. “You knew it his first year as a coach. He was somebody that you wanted to follow. He had it from the first time he walked on the practice field and he had it when he was a captain at Mansfield State College. He just brought a lot of passion and love to the game and to people.”

Bowen said there was a line that Chip Knapp, Drass’ longtime offensive coordinator and friend, always used to describe Drass.

“He was a genius at football and at people,” said Bowen, quoting Knapp. “You always knew that you had him in your corner. He would go to bat for you. … He really would do anything for a kid and anything for his program.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.